On a wine trail in Holi city of Nasik !

On a wine trail in Holi city of Nasik

 “Nasik -145 km” said the milestone, It was raining like crazy and we were on NH-3 in our car heading towards Nasik. It is located in Northern Maharashtra around 1900 ft. above sea level and witness’s high monsoon rainfall. We were planning to have a dry trip but the rain god had something else in his mind. I had heard a lot about the vineyards from Nasik, about the views, ambience, scenery, wines etc. and we thought of visiting these vineyards and witness something classy this monsoon. The online research about the vineyards around Nasik fueled the excitement of the trip. This was not my first trip to Nasik; I had been there in all seasons and knew how the Nasik city looks whole year round, however now we were going to see a different side of Nasik.

We planned to visit 3 vineyards in Nasik, York and Sula were located in same region, around 1 km from each other. Our first stop would be at York Vineyards because I had read somewhere that they serve good food, so we planned to have lunch there. Then we would be heading towards Sula to see the sunset, it was recommended by my colleagues who had been there already. We decided to cover these two vineyards on day 1 and stay somewhere around. On next day we planned to visit Chateau Indage vineyard which was supposed to be located on our way back to Mumbai. We found that all these vineyards have tasting room where you can taste some of the finest wines produced by them for a few hundred rupees.

Wine is basically a European concept, which they have detailed to a great extent. Type and quality of grapes used, harvest year, method of preparation, barrels used to age the wine etc. are some of the factors which affect the quality of Wine. During last decade Nasik has created a niche for itself. It is called as Grape city and wine capital of India. Around a decade back the business of making wines from grapes was non existent in this region but now it’s flourishing with average annual growth of 30%. With around 30 functional small and large Vineyards, the region produces 75% of India’s wine. The grape quality here is the best available in India and hence this region produce the finest wines, vintners here are winning accolades globally for making world class wine. Sula, york, chateau indage, zampa, Indus, grovers are some of the biggies of the wine making industry in India.

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I used to think that being driven is much better than driving yourself because you miss views while all others enjoy watching them at their leisure, but there is a different fun and joy of driving through the beautiful highways. It can’t get more exotic than driving through the clouds at 1 o’clock in afternoon. The lush green surrounding, zig-zag road and cool breeze of air was giving me goose bumps. The misty road casted its spell on us, we were experiencing reverse adrenalin rush and it felt unnecessary to overtake or drive too fast.

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A night before leaving for Nasik I watched Tour de France on television but now as we were approaching York vineyard I was feeling like I am participating in it. All of these vineyards are located in countryside and except the bumpy roads everything else has a French feel to it. Like the cyclists in Tour De France now we too were eager to reach destination as quick as possible because the vineyard and wine were waiting for us.

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The York vineyard is a beautiful 9 acre property owned by Mr Gurnani who started it in 2006. The vineyard has ecstatic location and magical atmosphere. We parked our car and headed to the wine tasting room which is on second floor offering a splendid view of Gangapur Dam. For first time in my life I saw grape farms and what a time and place it was to see them! Peak monsoon, overcast conditions, dam filled to brim, green lines drawn by very well organized grape farm everything was picture perfect. There were cattle in the distance eating and doing their daily chores, these cattle never looked so beautiful. We spent some time doing nothing but looking at the picturesque view, it felt like we were on earth looking at heaven. We shared the tasting room only with two more couples and few waiters. It was super quiet, and we felt the need of tasting the wine for which we were there. We were newbie to the wine tasting but the wine tasting guide ensured that we enjoy them and follow the rules of drinking wine. The gentleman was very courteous and was answering all our questions with conviction.

Image It was a nice session of around 30 minutes in which we tasted 3 white wines, 3 red wines and 1 Rose wine. Rose wine is not made out of rose but in French ‘Rose’ means ‘Pink’ and the wine takes its name from its color. While talking to the guide we apprised him about our plan of visiting 3 Vineyards, he suggested us to visit Zampa Vineyards as the Chateau Indage was not functional in Nasik anymore for some reasons. The food menu here is very limited but tasted amazing. After having food we left for the renowned sula Vineyards.

As we entered Sula we felt that we were about to see something substantial, Sula proves itself as the big brother of wine makers.

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The property is spread over 35 acres in which multiple grape varieties are planted and processed. The construction of restaurants, amphitheatre, gardens and wine making facility is very well thought through and neat. The tasting room is airy and built with a lovely view of Gangapur dam in horizon. The guided tour to the facility was informative and tour guide was highly interactive. From humble beginnings in 1997, Sula has admirably developed into a world class winery. The growth of wine business in India attributes to the effort and vision of Mr. Rajeev Samant who owns this wine estate. Being the most popular and easily accessible vineyard, it may get a bit crowded on weekends. Our wish of watching sun setting over Gangapur Dam could not come true due to the overcast conditions. The shear elegance of the vineyard tinkles the love buds within you and forces you to agree that you have never been to a more romantic place before. There are many things you can do here; you can have a romantic walk in the garden, roam around the grape plantation, eat or sip wine but doing nothing also has a romantic shade to it. Sula offers multiple eating options; ‘Little Italy’ restaurant makes sure you have a complete European experience of wine and food put together. Sula connects with you so much that disconnecting while leaving this place becomes a tough task. After replenishing our heart and soul with love we left this place late evening for a night stay in Nasik.

After a sumptuous breakfast, we left for Zampa Vineyards as suggested to us by the tasting guide at York. On way back to Mumbai we had to take a right on NH3 and the rough road leads to this beautifully located wine estate located in little known village of Sanjegaon. On google maps the distance was shown as 33 Km from our hotel and we thought that we will reach there within an hours time, but the google navigation misguided us and we were lost. When we realized the foul play by navigator, we took help of localites but no one knew the exact location. We went around 15 km in wrong direction but the extra fuel burnt was not wasted as we saw some splendid views enroute. The road was in very bad shape due to heavy monsoon but the views were making up for the pain I was taking to tackle the bumpy road. We met a gentleman and he guided us in finding the Vineyard. We followed his directions and realized that we have reached Vallonne Vineyard which was under construction. There was no one on the vineyard but a guard, this gentleman gave us directions to the Zampa Vineyards and following those we finally reached there to see Zampa closed down due to Sunday. During our chat with one of the security guard of the estate we found that the tasting and tour sessions are conducted on prior intimation only. We still had an opportunity to have a look at the vineyard and it was the most beautiful grape plantation we had seen in 2 days. The other name of Zampa is ‘Valley De Vin’ which means Valley of Wine.

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The grape plantation is done on slope of a hill, you could see some waterfalls and all greenery in background. The lounge, gardens and internal roads were beautifully carved and maintained. It had ambient modern setting, with beautiful courtyards and patios, It was relaxing and very pleasing to eyes. We clicked some photographs of this beautiful Wine estate and started our return journey.

The highlights of the tour were the landscapes in countryside. A small lake near Sula and a reservoir near Zampa were so amazing that we would have those views stored in our eyes and hearts for years to come. We would love to go back to all the vineyards during the harvesting season (Feb-March). During this season, Sula hosts annual fest ‘SulaFest’ which is an action packed event. If you want to experience stomping, head for the fest during harvest period.

How to reach: Nasik is around 150 km from Mumbai and around 165 km from Mumbai and around 210 km from Pune. There are multiple public transport options for intercity travel but to enjoy the trip it is advised to have your own vehicle.

Vineyards are located interiors of the countryside; cabs can be hired to take a tour to all the vineyards around Nasik.

Where to Stay: There are plenty of options available in Nasik. From star hotels to normal lodges there is something for every budget. Satpur MIDC being around 8-10 km from Sula and York Vineyards, staying at hotels in Satpur MIDC is a good option.

Places around: Trimbakeshwar: This place is located at the source of Godavari river, around 28 km from city of Nasik. It is dedicated to Lord Shiva and is one of the twelve Jyotirlingas.

Igatpuri: Around 40 km from Nasik, It is a famous hill station and a monsoon picnic spot. There are host of spots for site seeing and day picnics.

Bhandardara: At 70 km from Nasik, Bhandardara is home to MountKalsubai, the highest peak (5,400 ft or 1,600 m) in Maharashtra.

Both the above places are very famous among the trekking circuits as it offers some of the best trekking spots.

Pandavleni caves: 8 km from Nasik.